International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy (ICHRA) – UNITED SIKHS Blog http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog Recognize The Human Race As One Fri, 01 Sep 2017 23:45:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 UNITED SIKHS Joins Elected Officials to Commemorate Illinois House Resolution 1193, Denouncing Hate Crimes Against Sikh Americans and Other Minorities http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2012/12/united-sikhs-joins-elected-officials-to-commemorate-illinois-house-resolution-1193-denouncing-hate-crimes-against-sikh-americans-and-other-minorities/ Sat, 22 Dec 2012 03:46:40 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=1784 Palatine, Illinois: On Sunday, December 16th, UNITED SIKHS joined the South Asian and Sikh community at Palatine Gurdwara to commemorate the passing of House Resolution 1193 (HR 1193). This Resolution denounces the deplorable attacks on Sikh Americans and denounces hate crimes and hateful political rhetoric.

UNITED SIKHS worked with South Asian Policy and Research Institute (SAAPRI), Council on American-Islamic Relations Chicago (CAIR-Chicago) and the Sikh Religious Society of Chicago (Palatine Gurdwara Management Committee) in drafting the language and advocating for this resolution. “We hope the resolution will provide an agenda for even more specific laws for the future,” said Ami Gandhi, Executive Director at SAAPRI.

Rep. Biss (Photo courtesy of CAIR-Chicago)

Rep. Biss speaking to Palatine Gurdwara Sangat (Photo courtesy of CAIR-Chicago)

Ald. Pawar, Greg Bales, Rep. Biss and Sen. Murphy (Photo courtesy of CAIR-Chicago)

Ald. Pawar, Greg Bales, Rep. Biss and Sen. Murphy (Photo courtesy of CAIR-Chicago)

Rep. Mussman (Photo courtesy of CAIR-Chicago)

Rep. Mussman  speaking to Palatine Gurdwara Sangat (Photo courtesy of CAIR-Chicago)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palatine Gurdwara President Sukhdev Kaur began the commemoration by observing a moment of silence for the victims of the Newtown Connecticut shooting and making a request that the congregation pray for the families of the victims. Among the elected officials who made remarks at the commemoration and the press conference that followed were Senator Matt Murphy (27th District), Rep. Daniel Biss (17th District), Rep. Michelle Mussman (56th District), Alderman Ameya Pawar (47th Ward) and Greg Bales from US Senator Dick Durbin’s office.

Ald. Pawar, Sen. Murphy, Rep. Biss and Rep. Mussman (Photo courtesy of CAIR-Chicago)

Ald. Pawar, Sen. Murphy, Rep. Biss and Rep. Mussman (Photo courtesy of CAIR-Chicago)

Ekta Kaur, Ald. Pawar, Vikram Singh, Amrith Kaur, Rep. Biss, Sukhdev Kaur and Sen. Murphy (Photo courtesy of CAIR-Chicago)

Ekta Kaur, Ald. Pawar, Vikram Singh, Amrith Kaur, Rep. Biss, Sukhdev Kaur and Sen. Murphy (Photo courtesy of CAIR-Chicago)

Community at Press Conference (Photo courtesy of CAIR-Chicago)

Community at Press Conference (Photo courtesy of CAIR-Chicago)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We are excited to work with our state legislators, faith-based groups, and policy organizations to promote tolerance and counter bigotry,” said Rabya Khan, Staff Attorney at CAIR-Chicago. “This resolution is a first step in acknowledging that there is a greater need to educate the greater Illinois community on Sikh Americans and other minorities,” said Ekta Kaur, Regional Director of UNITED SIKHS. She added “Our community and the Illinois government must work together to create further programs to help prevent hate crimes and uphold our civil rights.”

Shiva Singh, Ald. Pawar, Sen. Murphy, Vikram Singh and Rep. Biss (Photo courtesy of SAAPRI)

Shiva Singh Khalsa, Ald. Pawar, Sen. Murphy, Vikram Singh and Rep. Biss (Photo courtesy of SAAPRI)

Ekta Kaur, Ald. Pawar, Vikram Singh, Amrith Kaur, Rep. Biss, Sukhdev Kaur, Sen. Murphy, Rajinder Mago, Balwant Hansra, Ami Gandhi, Gurdwara Attendee, Ahmed Rehab (Photo courtesy of SAAPRI)

UNITED SIKHS, SAAPRI, CAIR-Chicago and Sikh Religious Society of Chicago with Elected Officials (Photo courtesy of SAAPRI)

Tejas Shah, Ekta Kaur, Ald. Pawar and Vikram Singh (Photo courtesy of CAIR-Chicago)

Tejas Shah, Ekta Kaur, Ald. Pawar and Vikram Singh (Photo courtesy of CAIR-Chicago)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEE ALSO: Recent article by local journalist Mariam Khan, “State lawmakers’ new anti-hate resolution could boost Chicago’s immigrant-friendly drive.”

To volunteer in the greater Chicago area, please contact Ekta Kaur at ekta.kaur@unitedsikhs.org.

Vikram Singh
Pro Bono Counsel
UNITED SIKHS (Illinois)
Tel: 888-243-1690
vikram.singh@unitedsikhs.org

UNITED SIKHS – Recognize the Human Race as One

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UNITED SIKHS, along with other NGOs meets with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to discuss on growing Human Rights concerns http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2012/11/united-sikhs-along-with-other-ngos-meets-with-un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-to-discuss-on-growing-human-rights-concerns/ http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2012/11/united-sikhs-along-with-other-ngos-meets-with-un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-to-discuss-on-growing-human-rights-concerns/#comments Tue, 06 Nov 2012 17:19:36 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=1768

October 24th, New York: The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay met with over 20 NGOs on  October 24th at the UN Church Center in New York to address the growing human rights concerns  and also shared the updates on OHCHR’s activities. The meeting was moderated by Vice Chair for NGO Committee on Human Rights, Dr. Bobbi Nassar.

The Commissioner gave an overview of the OHCHR’s 2011-2012 activities. This included the workings of the Human Rights Council, the Universal Periodic Review, and, a great increase in the number of instances in which human rights (and the OHCHR) is gaining strength at the UN and in “post-2015 development” discussions. “The growing recognition of the centrality of human rights in the peace, security, development and humanitarian agendas, and trust in OHCHR is very rewarding,” Ms. Pillay noted. However, she warned that financial constraints are limiting the resources required to support her office’s mandated activities.

UNITED SIKHS questioned about the ban of conspicuous symbols such as turbans and headgears in schools and in general(in specific countries)which violate the very essence of human rights. The High Commissioner responded saying that “A faith group and minority have the right to practice and manifest their culture, religion and identity without discrimination and I oppose these principles and standards when I raise these matters with government. They have to find balance to accommodate diversity.”

US will continue advocating for equal rights as enshrined in the charter of UN.

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Census 2010 Sikh American Census Campaign FAQ http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2010/03/census-2010-sikh-american-census-campaign-faq/ http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2010/03/census-2010-sikh-american-census-campaign-faq/#comments Wed, 10 Mar 2010 16:13:10 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=789

Census 2010 Sikh American Census Campaign FAQ
This FAQ has been drafted as a result of many questions and concerns that have been expressed by members of the Sikh community in relation 1to the Sikh American Census campaign. We hope that the questions and answers below will provide clarity to any confusion, and you are welcome to contact us at law-usa@unitedsikhs.org.

Q1: What happens if I mark “Other Race” and write in “Sikh” on the Census Form?
A1: Currently, the Census bureau automatically codes all Sikh writeins as “Asian-Indian.” This is a problem because it doesn’t allow Sikhs to counted by the Census Bureau, even though many other nationalities and ethnic groups are coded and counted correctly. In conversation with Karen Humes, Assistant Division Chief for Special populations for the Census Bureau, members of the Sikh community asked how to get a code, and she responded that we should petition the Census Bureau. UNITED SIKHS submitted a petition, with the support of SALDEF, the Sikh Coalition, World Sikh Council, and many other leading Sikh organizations and Gurdwaras to the Census Bureau and the Office of Management and Budget to ask for a separate code, and we will continue our effort to obtain a separate code. You can review the petition and supporting academic paper at: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/petitions/census.php 

Q2: The Census form asks for race. Sikhs are a religion, not a race. Why should I write-in Sikh?
A2: The definition of “race” used by the Census is vague, and the Census form is not the best designed form. It only asks for “Race,”
and this is a problem for many people. It should rather ask for “Ethnicity.” The Census counts many categories of people that are not
“races” by any traditional definition. For example, if you write in “Bangladeshi,” you will be counted as Bangladeshi, even though
Bangladeshi is a nationality, not a race. Another example are the “Hmong” people who are of the same ethnicity, but not necessarily the
same “race.” Rather than only recognizing Sikhs as a religion, Sikhs are recognized as an ethnicity in many countries as we do have a very
distinct identity and idea of the “kaum.” We have a distinct language (Gurmukhi script), religion, marriage, festivals, appearance, and
other cultural variances; all of these additional factors qualify Sikhs as an ethnic group and a religion. We should be counted as Sikhs by the Census Bureau.
In the past, other ethnic groups have also been counted if they have many write-ins. The Census Bureau informed us that they will not assign Sikhs a code because of writeins, Sikhs will be coded as Asian Indian. However, the write-in forms are not thrown away and the Census Bureau does review the data. It is important to show that Sikhs want to be counted; also the forms become a part of national historical data and are made public after 72 years. This campaign is for now, and our future generations.

Q3: Why should we waste the Sikh Community’s time and money to be counted? Why now? Aren’t we too late? Are you being dishonest or misleading the community?
A3: UNITED SIKHS and other members of the Sikh community have been working on this issue for more than a year, and we understand that
this must be a sustained effort until we succeed in being coded correctly. Sikh Americans are tax-paying citizens just like everyone
else and have been excluded from being counted. It is a difficult task to change the government’s opinion on an issue, and it will
require the Sikh community in America to unite and take action by calling their Congressman and Senators and by having their voices
heard in public forums to be successful on this issue. If we do not succeed in getting a code in 2010, it is still important for the
Annual American Community Survey, which also codes Sikhs as Asian Indian, for the Census 2020, all other Censuses to come.

Q4: Why not simply mark the box for ‘Asian Indian’?
A4: If we want to be recognized as a group of people in the United States, and also if we (and the government) want to have accurate
numbers of how many Sikhs there are in the United States, we must ask to be counted as Sikhs. If we want the government to pay attention to
our community, they have to recognize how many Sikhs are in the United States. Also, not all Sikhs are of Asian Indian origin, and
many Sikhs who are not of Indian origin have expressed that they would like to be counted as Sikhs.

Q5: Why not fill in ‘Other Asian’ and then ‘Sikh’?
A5: Not all Sikhs are of Asian Indian origin, and many Sikhs who are not of Indian origin have expressed that they would like to be
counted as Sikhs. Also, it is important that for the purposes of showing our numbers, we all fill in the form the same way. Mark
“Other Race” and write-in “Sikh.”

Q6: What about Sikhs in other countries and Sikhs in India? Are you trying to separate Sikhs from India?
A6: The United States Census Bureau is only concerned with counting all people within the United States, whether they are legal or
illegal. This is an official count by the United States government and happens every ten years. This has nothing to do with Sikhs
outside of the United States, nor does it have any effect on Sikhs outside of the United States. It is important for Sikhs in the United
States to be counted by the Census Bureau because it is important to be properly recognized by the government for a variety of reasons; in
elections, for resources, and for advocacy.

Q7: What are some other minorities that have gotten themselves counted successfully in the past?
A7: Minorities always have to speak-up and advocate for their rights. In the past during the founding of the United States Constitution,
only three-fifths of the population of slaves were counted by the Census, changing the distribution of taxes and the amount of representatives into Congress by southern states. That means only three out of five slaves were counted as people. The Latino/Hispanic communities also had to advocate for their right to be counted separately, and some of them, such as people from the Dominican Republic are only being counted correctly for the first time, in Census 2010. Many communities are advocating around the Census because there are still many problems and solutions being proposed.

Q8: Are other religions counted by the Census?
A8: The Census Bureau is not allowed, by law, to ask a mandatory question on religion on the Census form. However, this does not stop the Census from accepting answers from those who self-identify, and the Census does count people of many different ethnicities. The only count the Census Bureau engages in where a question about religion is asked is in the American Community Survey, which is a much smaller annual survey that is done randomly around the country; Census 2010 aims to count every person in America.

Q9: How will this affect the count of Asian Indians? Does it affect the “Asian Indian” category at all with the current computer coding versus with the new coding, if we successfully obtain a new code?
A9: Currently, since writing in Sikh automatically codes a Sikh as “Asian Indian,” the number of Asian Indians increases, though Sikhs
are not specially recognized in that increase. If we successfully obtain a new code, the numbers that would have increased the Asian
Indian numbers will be counted as Sikhs, rather than as Asian Indian.

Q10: How will the Sikh community be affected if we are counted separately versus not?
A10: Census data is used by many many parts of government for a variety of things from allocating resources, to drawing districts for
political representation, to determining what areas require special assistance, to name a few uses. Even local governments often use
Census data in making decisions that affect the local people. If we are counted separately, we will be able to lobby more effectively as
a community when we approach our congressman and senators, and we will have recognition as a separate people. Many Sikhs express
frustration that people in government and in the public do not know who we are. This is another step in creating the awareness that we
need to be a successful community in the United States.

Q11: How do we benefit at the state level to register a Sikh Complete Count Committee?
A11: Forming a Sikh Complete Count Committee is another way to display to the Census Bureau that we want to be counted as Sikhs,
that we are taking the Census seriously, and that we are willing to work with the government to be counted. We need your help with this campaign so that the Sikh community can be counted correctly.

Please feel free to email law-usa@unitedsikhs.org with any further questions or concerns.

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Victory for Sikhs in South Carolina http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2009/08/victory-for-sikhs-in-south-carolina/ Fri, 07 Aug 2009 18:55:06 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=451 A few months ago, UNITED SIKHS was approached by one of our volunteers in South Carolina, Jagmeet Singh, about a problem he was facing at the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles. He was requested to remove his turban to obtain his driver’s license, and they refused. You can read more about it here. UNITED SIKHS Legal Team wrote a letter to the South Carolina authorities, and we are happy to report that we’ve heard back from Jagmeet Singh. Earlier today, Jagmeet wrote to us, “I went to renew my SC Driver’s license today. I did not face any trouble. It was very smooth process. Last time DMV employees asked me to remove daastar to take picture and then UNITED SIKHS contacted SC authorities.”

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United States Commission on International Religious Freedom Comments on RTT Cases http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2009/08/united-states-commission-on-international-religious-freedom-comments-on-rtt-cases/ Fri, 07 Aug 2009 17:05:20 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=444 Thanks to the advocacy work of the RTT Legal Team, USCIRF has expressed serious concerns about the Sikhs right to wear the turban in France, and concern about the recent European Court of Human Rights Decision against the Right to Turban (http://www.uscirf.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2650&Itemid=126). As you may be aware, the ECtHR dismissed the case as inadmissible based on a previous ruling that the ban on turbans is a proportionate response to the aims of protection of the rights and freedoms of others and the protection of public order. You can read more about the cases at http://www.unitedsikhs.org/rtt and at http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-16024-Europe-Policy-Examiner~y2009m7d17-European-Court-rules-against-the-Sikh-turban-in-French-schools

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UNITED SIKHS Interns Lead Youth in Seva and Civil Rights Workshop http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2009/08/united-sikhs-interns-lead-youth-in-seva-and-civil-rights-workshop/ Mon, 03 Aug 2009 20:45:15 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=440

Plainview, NY, USA – Six UNITED SIKHS Law and Media Interns led a two-hour workshop and discussion session at the Sikh youth camp at the Guru Gobind Singh Sikh Center in Plainview, New York on July 15th. 108 children, ages 9-16, participated in the workshop. The workshop focused on the concept of seva (selfless service); it also included discussion regarding the turban and screened the film The Right to Turban, which details various cases involving the turban ban in France. The workshop ended with children filling out and discussing questionnaires on bullying.

The children were broken up into different discussion groups within the main group. The workshop began with a discussion focused on working within the small groups to formulate individual definitions of seva, along with discussing why seva is an important part of their faith and brainstorming service projects that qualified as seva. After the portion on seva, the discussion shifted to the turban. This presentation included a discussion on why Sikhs wear the turban and its significance in Sikhism. The children then watched the movie The Right to Turban, which focused on the turban ban in France, followed by a short discussion. The workshop concluded with a discussion surrounding bullying, including what kinds of bullying the children have experienced, how they dealt with it, and how it made them feel.

The Guru Gobind Singh Sikh Center has held a Sikh Camp every summer for the past seven years, with this year marking the highest attendance to date. The camp is everyday, Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm for two weeks. The camp has a total of 210 campers, ages 6 to 16 and 23 volunteer counselors, age, 16-20.

“It was a great experience. Even at a young age, these children conveyed an immense sense of pride in their religion and culture. It was especially impressive how dedicated they are to the concept of seva, and how willing they are to act selflessly for the greater good of the community.” -Megan Collelo, Legal Intern

I think the kids and even the counselors learned a lot about some of the most important aspects of Sikhi that some realized that they completely misunderstood.” -Ravjot Bhasin, Counselor at the Gurudwara Camp

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Sikhs of Peshwar Break their Silence. UNITED SIKHS steps up Advocacy http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2009/07/sikhs-of-peshwar-break-their-silence-united-sikhs-stems-up-advocacy/ http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/2009/07/sikhs-of-peshwar-break-their-silence-united-sikhs-stems-up-advocacy/#comments Wed, 15 Jul 2009 18:51:53 +0000 http://www.unitedsikhs.org/blog/?p=375 sikhsinpeshwargurd16th of July 2009, Pesahwar,  Pakistan:   In the third visit to meet the Sikhs in Peshawar the Sikhs broke out their silence of their situation and gave a detailed saga of the kidnapping of  Kalyan Singh.

Displacement of Sikhs from Orakzai and Kurram Agency:
See video: http://vimeo.com/5607143
Currently approximately 700  Sikh families live in Peshawar.  95% of the Sikh families are Amritdhari Sikhs.  After the war with Taliban 12 families from Orakzai Agency and one from district Bunair took shelter at Bhai Joga Singh Gurdwara in Peshawar. These families were accommodated to the homes of the Sikhs in Peshawar with their relatives  and friends. The affected people came in just their dress’s that they were wearing.  The Sikhs from Orakzai Agency left because of the kidnapping of Kalyan Singh by the Taliban.

Kidnapping of Kalyan Singh:

Kalyan Singh is aged around 75 and has 4 children.  The Taliban asked them to pay Rs 5.20 crores (PKR). Going to the police is useless as they are not affective against the Taliban by any means. Even the local tribesmen of Orakzai who were to give protection to the minorities were no match to the Taliban. The Sikhs argued and settled for a minimal amount of Rs 60 lakhs. This money came collectively from the Orakzai Sikhs, the Sikhs from Peshawar, Gurdwara Saheb Bhai Joga Singh Peshawar, and the Muslim community (as an interest free loan) who knew the Sikh families from Orakzai.  All the local Sikh families were asked to collect together and their elder representative was asked to meet with the appointed Taliban commander-in-charge. Kalyan Singh was selected and asked to represent them.  Three  demands were placed to Kalyan Singh, to be placed to the Sikh community of Orakazai.

1) Convert to Islam, 2) Fight the Taliban, 3) Pay a yearly tax, also referred to as Jaziya for the minorities

Initially the Sikh families outrightly rejected all the three demands. In retaliation the Taliban kidnapped Kalyan Singh, right after the meeting, and he was held in their captivity for 16 days.  Being an Amritdhari Sikh, Kalyan Singh didn’t eat food for 3 days, after which he was allowed cooked food from his home.

Escape of Mr Kalyan Singh and the Sikhs from Orakzai
On not getting the 60 lakhs, the Taliban on the request of the local Muslims, allowed Kalyan Singh to go home and payback the remaining amount of 40 lakhs.  Kalyan Singh was informed that in case the Sikhs refused to pay this amount, their homes would be broken, the male Sikh members would be killed and their women would become their property. Kalyan Singh knew that they would not be able to pay the remaining amount and hence fled with the other Sikhs from Orakzai with the only belongings being the clothes that  they were wearing,  their immediate belongings that they could gather, their holy books (gutkas), and the Guru Granth Saheb Ji (Parkash at home) to Peshwar. The Sikh families reached Peshawar at 5 am in the morning, after an arduous 8 hour journey, travelling through off roads.

Problems currently faced by them and advocacy requirements met by UNITED SIKHS

The Sikhs fear of going back to the Orakzai Agency as they are afraid that the Taliban who will hide high in the mountains and escape from the war will come back and ask them for the remaining amount. Since they have never seen any state governance offering protection, today, their minds are not to go back to Orakazai. The feedback they have received is that their home goods have been auctioned and their homes broken.  The army has started its operations just a few days back in Orakzai Agency.  The Orakzai Sikhs and the Kurram Agency Sikhs were not even considered as Internally Displaced People (IDP) by the local government. In other words, these displaced, jobless Sikhs from Orakzai are caught in a state where they don’t know what their classification would be. UNITED SIKHS met with the Ministry of Population of Welfare, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan and the CEO of NATPOW and have been promised that this would be looked into. UNITED SIKHS has also written to the Minister of Minority Affairs in Pakistan and will advocate for their cause to be recognized and will assist in speeding up their registration process with the government agency.

Sandeep Singh
Sikh Aid, Pakistan
UNITED SIKHS
http://unitedsikhs.org
Email: contact@unitedsikhs.org

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